Sunday, June 19, 2011

End of WWOOFing... for now

So, I left the third and final farm today. I had considered not WWOOFing and just traveling around the UK for my weeks here; I'm glad I ended up going for another round. Part of my reluctance was that I knew it would be hard for the next farm (or anywhere, really) to match up to the last farm in France. But I definitely ended up having a good time. Didn't connect to the family as much here, but certainly enjoyed them; did some good old-fashioned manual labor outside, and saw some nice coastlines. Also went to a few pubs and had some really good, local beers. I had been pretty disappointed with the beer selection in Germany; I'm glad England lived up to its reputation as a place to get good beer.
On one of my days off, I also biked to the nearby town of Cheddar, where cheddar cheese was in fact invented. While there, I sampled cheddar cheese, watched it being made, and drank some cider. This was pretty amusing to me, as when I have gone up to Vermont to visit my friend Anna, we always go get cheddar cheese samples, drink cider, and watch cider being made. (Notable differences: "cider" here is what we call "hard cider.") I was most impressed with the cheddar-cheese making; they had one of those videos telling and showing how its made, and in fact, one of the people in the video making the cheese was the very same guy that was making the cheese behind the big glass windows. Legit.
At the moment, I'm in a town called Beer. (Though I plan to have a beer here, so I will have drank beer in Beer and eaten cheddar in Cheddar, it is not actually the birthplace of beer, and in fact isn't even named for the drink). It's a town on what's known as the "Jurassic Coast" due to the fossil-rich cliffs that run along it. The cliffs around Beer are white chalk, so no fossils here (at least, none visible to the naked eye), but still quite pretty. I got here around 1 pm; check-in at the hostel wasn't until 5 pm, so I walked along the beach, created and Andy Goldsworthy-inspired sculpture out of black pebbles on a chunk of the white chalk, and walked along the coastal path. Despite the steady rain (which made taking pictures somewhat difficult), it was enjoyable; the weather meant that very few other people were around, and the wind made it feel that much more of a savage and wild place. (I am glad to have had a hot shower and be in dry clothes, however.)
Tomorrow, will probably stick around here (was considering heading to another area of the coast with more fossils, but I want to limit my travel time); spending the night at a hostel in Exeter because this one was booked up for Saturday night and my friend Steve in London is away for the weekend. Sunday day will probably be mostly traveling, maybe explore Exeter in the morning; Sunday evening/ night through Tuesday in London, then (finally!) Berlin to see Mwanzaa!

Part 2

So, this morning, in a kind of spur of the moment, I decided to indeed head to one of the nearby towns with more fossils. Got on the bus with the original plan of going on a guided "fossil walk," but ended up getting off a stop before the planned town, in a town called Lyme Regis. (Decided I didn't really need to be guided). I was really glad I ended up going- at certain points along the beach, there are long, flat layers of stone that are just filled with ammonites! (They're the nautilus-type thing that you often see in fossil shops). Really amazing to see. You can't really extract them, as they're embedded in these huge pieces of stone, but plenty of fossil hunters come and break open stones looking for specimens. I didn't find much (didn't have a hammer, so just picked up rocks and hurled them at bigger rocks until they broke open). Also had a delicious fish and chips.
In the afternoon/ evening, headed back to Exeter by bus to the next hostel. I foolishly failed to write down any information about the Exeter hostel, assuming that there would be internet access at the hostel in Beer, which there wasn't. No worries; I'll just find a place with free WiFi in Exeter. Public library? Closed. Starbucks? Have to buy a membership card; was going to do that, but then the nice cashier offered to log in using his username and password; but then the signal was too weak and it wouldn't load. He pointed me towards a nearby pub with free WiFi- but it wasn't configured correctly, so I could connect, but couldn't get any pages to load. So finally, I called my parents (who were visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and the baby), and between all of them managed to talk them through logging in to my Yahoo account, where they found the necessary email, gave me the address and directions, and I finally made it to the hostel. Nice little place; good atmosphere; a true backpacker's hostel.

Part 3

Short: Got up this morning (Saturday), walked around Exeter, took the bus to London, and spent the rest of the evening watching Prison Break and drinking some beer with Steve. Tomorrow, I'm on my own to explore London- should be fun!

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